LSU Tigers: Chad Bumphis

Big 3: Tigers remain motivated

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
12:06
PM ET
BATON ROUGE, La. -- At practice this week, Les Miles said he has seen a motivated LSU team following a heart-breaking loss to Alabama that all but killed the Tigers' hopes of BCS or SEC championships. The media has noticed a motivated practice schedule. Monday and Tuesday post-practice interview sessions have run close to an hour late, a sign that the Tigers are putting in a hard week's work leading up to this week's game with Mississippi State. Miles addressed that issue and others on Wednesday morning's SEC teleconference:

1. What's our motivation?: When Miles fielded the inevitable question about LSU's motivation post-Alabama, he said his team had plenty.

"Our team is, first and foremost, a very capable club," he said. "They want victory. We have a need to win and it's a weekly need."

LSU (7-2, 3-2) closes its regular season with three opponents it figures to be favorites against: Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

2. Get them the ball? Miles was asked about two players who have had diminished roles in the Tigers offense: wide receiver Russell Shepard and running back Kenny Hilliard.

Of Shepard, who has touched the ball just 17 times this season, Miles said "We expect to get him more balls. There are a lot of snaps he can play for us."

He simply has not been getting them. As a receiver, he is a forgotten man with six catches. Once the top-rated dual-threat quarterback and one of the top prep players in the country, Shepard's best work has come as a situational running back this season. Against Alabama, he carried twice while taking pitches as a running back. At running back, he also had a 78-yard touchdown run against Towson.

Of Hilliard, whose playing time has diminished since Jeremy Hill has emerged as a primary back, Miles said there are "reasons for his slowed improvement." He did not specify what those were, but did say Hilliard, who has not carried the ball in the last two games, should compete for more carries. Hilliard is second on the team in rushing with 420 yards on 71 carries.

3. Russell's improvement: Miles noted the play of Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell as part of the reason why the Bulldogs are off to a 7-2 start.

"He is a very capable passer," Miles said. "And they have a very nice scheme." Miles noted that wide receiver Chad Bumphis was "a very talented" option for Russell to throw to.

Russell is fifth in the SEC in passing, averaging 217 yards per game with 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Call it a trend at this point: None of Mississippi State's final scores are particularly impressive, but the Bulldogs keep winning games.

Mississippi State didn't score again after its first drive of the second half Saturday against Kentucky, but it was enough for a 27-14 win and the program's first 5-0 start since 1999. Given the cringe-worthy nature of Kentucky's first two SEC losses -- a 38-0 loss to Florida and a 38-17 loss to South Carolina -- you might expect more firepower from the Bulldogs.

Make no mistake, though -- this was a State-dominated affair for 60 full minutes, despite the closeness of the scoreline. The Bulldogs controlled the ball for 36 minutes and ground their way to 427 yards of offense, highlighted by a 23-of-39, 269-yard performance from quarterback Tyler Russell.

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GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, David Helman talked with the Clarion-Ledger's Brandon Marcello in a preview of this season's matchup with Mississippi State.

Q: If you look at the Bulldogs' schedule, Mississippi State could be set up for a hot start before games against Alabama and LSU. Does the softness of the schedule give fans hope for a statement season?

When you look at that schedule, State can start maybe 6-1 or 7-0 -- if not that then at least 5-2. The only team in the first seven games that went to a bowl game last season is Auburn. I know it's early, but that game is kind of the pivot point. If they can knock off Auburn, it becomes even more important going down the stretch, because they play Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas toward the end of the season, which is just a murderer's row. They're hoping to get some momentum going so they can contend with LSU and Alabama.

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We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

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